Prashant Kishor, the ideology agnostic political consultant, is now nearly as famous as the leaders he works for. PK, as he’s universally addressed, currently seems to have two opponents: the Congress party — which he nearly joined (reported by me in Gulf News) and Amit Shah, Union Home Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) chief poll strategist.
Connect the dots and a most fascinating political conundrum emerges. Foregrounding the current “Khela Hobe” (game on) attrition that PK and Mamata Banerjee are waging on the Congress, which they are treating as their primary opposition.
Backgrounding this is the relationship that both PK and Banerjee have shared with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India earlier.
An old confidant
PK had earlier gone public with the fact that he shares a warm relationship and speaks to Modi despite, his very public fallout with the BJP. It is now part of Indian political lore that in 2014 after BJP won the general elections in which PK (in his earlier iteration) worked for Modi, he asked Amit Shah “What after May (when the results are announced) and Shah snubbing him by saying 'June'."
Banerjee nurses open prime ministerial ambitions and has hired PK for five years to make her dream come true. PK, who couldn’t agree to a deal with the Gandhi family on joining the Congress, has since gone after Rahul Gandhi with public ferocity and is poaching Congress leaders.
The entire Congress party in the north-east and Goa has defected. Names like Sushmita Deb, who had worked closely with Rahul Gandhi, Kirti Azad, Luizhino Falerio have joined the TMC from the Congress.
India’s principal opposition party received a massive jolt last week when its Meghalaya unit (12 Members of the Legislative Assembly — MLAs — including former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma switched over to the TMC). Banerjee has made no secret of her dislike of Rahul Gandhi and her assessment of his political ineptitude.
But, by treating the Congress as her main enemy, Banerjee is helping the BJP by putting opposition unity at stake. Banerjee even met the loose cannon and known Gandhi family baiter Subramanian Swamy on her recent three day trip to Delhi. Asked if she was meeting Sonia Gandhi, interim Congress president, she retorted that it was not mandatory to meet Gandhi when you visited Delhi.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Sharad Pawar, were both born out of the Congress when the two leaders walked away and formed their own outfits. Anti-Congressism is in the DNA of both the parties. Pawar who runs a coalition government in alliance with the Congress and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra has also made no secret of his rather dim view of Rahul Gandhi’s capabilities.
PK is currently the via media between Banerjee and Pawar. A well-known Indian pollster, who has got more polls right than wrong puts out a rather piquant view. He says, “Ask yourself if there is any leader or any political party which PK has actually made win elections."
A Trojan horse?
The parties and leaders he consulted would have won the elections without him. From Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, M K Stalin, Nitish Kumar, Jagan Reddy and Banerjee they would have won the election without him. Why do all his moves eventually help the BJP? The million dollar question is he a Trojan horse in the opposition camp.”
PK could not ensure the win of team Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav in the UP elections. And, that election was a real challenge against the BJP. The BJP needed to win UP to retain India.
Even the anaemic smart brains of the Congress party are now asking tough questions about PK. Considering the Gandhi family almost gave him the keys to the Congress party, it is belated wisdom dawning.
Fascinatingly most of PK’s clients have eventually done business with the BJP either openly or tacitly. And, politics in India these days is all the business of smoke and mirrors and vaunting ambitions.
The BJP has to ensure that it retains UP in 2022 and India in 2024. To retain India, everything is up for grabs. Now connect the dots. I promise to bring you the next instalment in this political thriller.